Thursday, March 25, 2010

Beauty from Ashes

Two months. That has to be a record for me. I won't spend any time on what has been going on during that time. We've just been living life. To those that have emailed and sent Facebook messages (since I've been absent from there, too)...thanks for checking on us. We are OK. Busy. And OK. Alright...jumping right back in...

I've had plenty of things to blog about over the last 2 months, but was kind of freeing to step back for a while, gather my thoughts, sort some things out. I've been wanting to jump back in, but when a regular blogger takes a "break", it's kind of hard to figure out how to start back up again. I didn't know exactly where to begin again until tonight.

I know that someone needs to hear this as badly as I did because it isn't like me to be as publicly open about this as I know I am going to be. I feel so strongly that there is someone that desperately needs to hear this that I am going to put my heart out there. I've written about this topic only once (on my old private blog that I no longer use) and only spoken about this with a few people that have lived it, though that was in the midst of another storm at this same time last year. I am praying tonight, as always, and will continue to pray for those that have been touched by this trial...because I know it hurts and because I know that sometimes we allow it to define us, thus giving it the power it doesn't deserve. My heart is so heavy tonight for friends that I know are battling this with all of themselves right now and even those that have been living with this for years. I truly pray that you will one day find peace in this.

"...and provide for those who grieve in Zion - to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor." Isaiah 61:3

Let me just say that I love Beth Moore and I have to admit to being completely blown away by her Bible study, Breaking Free. I need to rephrase that. I am amazed by how God is using this Bible study to blow me away. This is an intense study that digs into your deepest strongholds in order to reveal and break chains so that you can become closer to God. If I can be honest, I did not know what I was about to step in to when I signed up for this. My first thoughts were positive. I thought that I would learn a few things and hopefully grow a little closer in my relationship with him because break free? Break free from what exactly? Then I got the book and flipped through the pages. I decided that most of which would be addressed in the first six weeks were things that I had already dealt with and moved on. Maybe weeks 7-10 would be beneficial. Weeks 1 - 6 might bring back some memories, but what each day addressed would not be helpful to me at all because I either had already "broken free" from those strongholds or I knew that I never would be able to break free from them in this life. We began by comparing the lives of a few kings of Judah to our lives today to see that there is a great resemblance. Week 2 taught the benefits that God extends to his children. We began to look at obstacles that stand in the way in week 3. So far, so good. But then it got deep. In week 4 we dove into topics like generational bondage and I began to squirm a little. I only thought that was deep until week 5 when we we shot straight to the heart to discuss things like childhood victimization and loss in childhood. That was an uncomfortable week for me. The pain of losing my father when I was just eight years old is still fresh in my mind, but I was happy to realize that much of what I thought would hurt during those first few weeks really became a reassurance that my heart has been healed and while sometimes memories still hurt, they no longer control me. I thought the hardest part was over and the few tears that I shed during week 5 would not return. Moving into week 6 , Beauty from Ashes, would be the start of the climb out of the pit of the past. It wasn't far into day 1 when I realized this may be the most difficult week for me yet. We would be talking about 5 dreams that most little girls have and what happens if one of our dreams does not come true. One of those be fruitful.

As I said, until now I have never openly discussed infertility except with a few friends that have lived it. If you have heard me talk about the pain that comes with infertility, if you aren't someone that has experienced it first hand, I have never been completely honest with you. Just like other losses, until you experience it you can not even begin to understand the pain that it causes and the havoc that it wrecks on your life. I have often described infertility as death and to this day I still believe that it is a death that it is necessary to grieve and mourn the death of the dream of having a child.

For those of you that do not know our story, we walked through infertility before adopting our son from Guatemala. But here's the twist and one that has been discussed privately, but that I have always been afraid to say publicly until now....

Even after adoption, infertility still hurts. There is no life after infertility. Just like the death of a loved one is never forgotten and always brings back pain regardless of a healed heart, so does infertility.

Some may say that by my admitting this or having these feelings, that I am not satisfied with the child that is ours. Before you comment or send an email saying how horrible I am, please hear me when I say and mean that I adore our son and there is not another child, biological or not, that I could love more than him. He is our son and never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be so blessed by being his mom. If I had the chance to live this part of my life again, this time without infertility and having a biological child instead of adopting, already knowing this outcome, I would walk through fire to become the mother to THIS child a thousand times over. This has nothing to do with him, but more with longing for something that I know I cannot have. Genetics mean nothing to me. In fact, I always knew that my children would come to me through adoption and I never had a strong desire to have biological children. We decided years ago to try to have a child and then we would adopt children. It wasn't until someone told us that we cannot have biological children that I truly began to want one. To this day, as confusing as it sounds, I have no desire to have a biological child. I believe the explanation of why I do not want biological children is simple...God never intended for me to have a child this way. But that doesn't erase the fact that there are things that we lose in life that we grieve over and mourn the loss of and losing just the chance of having children this way is a death that we walked through in order to get to our son.

I believe that everything happens for a reason and I have always known that the pain of infertility would lead to something greater than I could imagine. Until now, I assumed that it led and may continue to lead to adoption and that is part of it, I'm sure. I also knew that had we not adopted from Guatemala, my heart would never have been shattered for the suffering there, so I knew that one of the reasons we had to live this in this life was so that we could fulfill our purpose. But never have I seen so clearly through the pain of infertility as I am seeing today.

Oh how often I read these verses through tears years ago....

"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the Lord. "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cord, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth." Isaiah 54: 1-5

I never got it. How could it be..."more are the children of the desolate woman" that never bore a child?

I spent years begging for the positive pregnancy test that never came and I wasted a lot of time asking God to give me something that deep down I knew was not His will for my life. But I wanted it and for a while I am ashamed to admit that I did not care what he wanted and I cried myself to sleep every night asking him to change his mind.

I wish I could have heard the words that he may have been speaking to me during that time...words that I could not hear because I didn't want to.

"Just wait. Just wait for the day when you finally understand what I mean by "more are the children of the desolate woman." Just wait until the moment you realize what all of this is really about. Just wait because in the not too distant future I am going to show you why you had to live this. Just wait until I shatter the wall that now surrounds your heart. Just wait until you feel the relief that comes when I lift this burden from you. Just wait."

After our adoption was final, I hid so many of the emotions that come to some moms (and dads) post adoption. I felt guilty for still sometimes thinking about infertility and being hurt by it. "Experts" talk about life after infertility and I've learned that this is something that many adoptive parents experience, but do not feel comfortable sharing because so many people look at us and think that once we become parents through adoption our struggle with infertility should be over. That simply is not the case. If you never give birth to a child because of infertility, you are always infertile. It never goes away. I will be 70 years old and still I will remember this and sometimes that memory will hurt. It is hard to explain, but I know that many understand exactly what I am talking about (please somebody...tell me you understand this). But again, I knew all along that there was a reason for our infertility and I have been able to piece things together along the way...things that I know were supposed to happen and would only have happened because of this. But there is so much more to it than what I have ever realized.

Beth says, "God never allows or appoints a fire unless he can bring beauty from the ashes." "We cannot often refuse the fire,", she says, "but we can refuse to be refined by it." "God is much more interested in our callings than our comfort. Sometimes our fiery trials are absolutely necessary to fulfill our callings."

Beauty from ashes. I have never compared infertility to ashes, though I have compared the parts of the result to beauty (our can't get more beautiful than that). But "beauty from ashes" has taken on an entirely new meaning for me now. I knew that this was necessary to fulfill part of our calling, but did I ever fully grasp what might not have happened had we not walked through infertility? No. For so long I've asked God if I would always feel the pain of infertility and for so long I have asked him if I would ever fully understand why this happened to us. I know now that yes, infertility will always be a part of my life because it is such an important part of who I was, am and will become, but just as it hasn't hurt in the last year (since the peak of pain after adoption), it will not be a constant source of pain in my life ever again because my heart is healed. Memories sometimes bring back pain, but we are not defined by our memories and infertility will never again hurt the way it once did. That wall has been shattered. To my other question, his answer is yes and now is the time that I am hearing his response.

Without infertility we would have eventually adopted, but Central America never entered our thoughts. I wanted to have a child and then adopt a cute little girl from China and a boy from Cambodia (this was before Cambodia closed). Guatemala was not on our radar. But we did adopt from Guatemala and we began falling in love with a country that we never would have known without infertility. I would never have spent time fostering a child there and never would have started an organization focused on preventing orphans and caring for existing orphans there. That is where my mind stopped. That is how our fiery trial of infertility was necessary to fulfill our calling. But then God used a Bible study and two simple words, "spiritual children", to show me the rest of his reason for our infertility and to lift the burden of infertility from my life as quickly as it was placed there.

I had to answer the question last week, "Are you discovering a few opportunities to rear spiritual children?" you have any opportunities to love, mentor, minister to, be a part of a child's life that isn't actually your child...a child that is your spiritual child?

Immediately all of my questions were answered and that horrible, heavy burden was lifted from my life. For the first time it all made perfect sense. The reason is different for everyone that experiences infertility. Some may be for the reason of adopting a child or children and that is it or maybe it has nothing to do with adoption at all. Children need moms and dads and if a child is a true orphan he or she should be adopted and God uses infertility to fulfill that purpose in so many lives. That was part of it for us, but our reason was not just to adopt one or two, four or six children. In fact the more I listen, the more I understand that we will likely never adopt the number of children we once talked about. Because through infertility he would show us that our calling was to rear more spiritual children than we will ever know about in this life.

I am sitting in my living room right now, but my mind has me in the middle of Pueblo Nuevo and I can see the children that we already know and so many more that we do not. There are hundreds of children there and we are there because of them. To make sure that they do not become orphans. To help break the cycle of generational poverty in this village in their lifetimes. To ensure that their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren never have to face the fears that exist in the lives of those that live in the grasp of poverty. We already love them so much, every one of them, and it is our God given hearts desire to watch them grow and thrive, living full, long lives outside of the bondage that they are currently living in. God knew while I was begging him to allow us to have a child that in our lives we would have more spiritual children than we will ever know this side of heaven. He knew that I had no idea when I said we would one day work with at-risk children in developing countries that we would be working not just for one or two generations, but that after we are gone, what we do now will effect generations to come. His will for our lives was already planned and how he would get us to that point was already in the works. Infertility was never to hurt was just the sign in the road that said, "This isn't the way. Turn here." And just wait.

I have no idea what he is going to do with the rest of our lives or how many children (and adults) in places unknown that he will lead us to. I do not know how he will touch their lives through us or our lives through them. I have been thankful for infertility for a few years now, since we first met Tommy and knew that without it, he would not be our son. But today I am thankful for infertility on behalf of every child that he will touch because of the life he has called us to.

I am so in love with the God that says, "Sing, O barren woman...." and pray that for every woman battling with the newness of infertility or the scars from years ago, that you (and I) will enlarge the place of our tents and stretch our tent curtains wide because perhaps we have been called to spread out to the right and the left. Maybe we truly will have more children than we believed we would because I finally believe...."more are the children of the desolate woman."

Beauty from ashes...